Healthy roster should help Riverview rebound from 2-win season

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 7:39 p.m.

Last year at this time, it appeared the Riverview Raiders were in for a promising season.

But injuries and several vastly improved Eastern Conference teams derailed Riverview's hopes of getting back to the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2007.

For instance, Corey Bickert was one of the conference's most talented players. But when he went down, the Raiders needed four or five players to replace him at running back, receiver, defensive back and kick and punt returner.

Despite the loss of 15 starters, fifth-year coach Todd Massack is hopeful of getting back into the playoff chase.

“We have some good kids that have been working hard all summer,” Massack said. “We have a good core group that has spent time in the weight room and in speed workouts. Our goal is to make the playoffs.”

One of the first tasks is to replace quarterback Jake Milberger, who threw for 1,051 yards last season.

Massack is ready to go with sophomore Tyler Nigro, last year's junior varsity signal-caller.

A veritable newcomer, junior Jason Anthony will be Nigro's backup. Anthony played junior high football for the Raiders, then switched to soccer the past two seasons.

Massack's older son, Nick, was among the graduation losses. But the veteran coach is ready to insert another son, Jake, at tight end and inside linebacker.

The passing of the torch from one Massack to another is an example of how familiar names dot the Riverview roster year after year.

Twins Tim and Greg Wagner will be counted on heavily offensively and defensively.

“Tim's our leading receiver from last year and had a good year in track this spring,” Coach Massack said. “He's made the commitment and Greg is one who leads by example. Their father, Dan, also played for Riverview.”

Sean Provenza, who led the Raiders in tackles last season with 145, will be replaced by younger brother Dillon, a sophomore.

Bishop Canevin, a school that has outscored the Raiders, 99-17, over the last two seasons has moved out of the conference, along with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

Into the Eastern Conference come Apollo-Ridge and West Shamokin.

“I don't know much about each of those schools, but the conference is closer to that A-K Valley feel,” Massack said. “Still, Avonworth, Springdale, Northgate and North Catholic are very challenging.”

Due to a quirk in the scheduling, Riverview will play just three conference home games and will have five away games. Next season, the sites will be reversed as the Raiders will have five home conference encounters.

A fourth home game this season will be a nonconference meeting with Shenango on Oct. 5 under the portable lights at Riverside Park.

Coach Massack and the Raiders are also excited about their new uniforms.

Riverview will stick with its black-and-gold scheme, but the varsity jerseys will feature throwback shoulder stripes, much like the old Oakmont High School Oaks did under hall of fame coach Elmer Gross, Todd Massack's grandfather.

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